7 Tips for Dog Sitting as a Side Hustle

Two months ago I quit my part-time W2 job to focus on side hustles and passive income streams. As we were brainstorming different income ideas, dog sitting quickly came up. Our family loves dogs, I am home full-time, we are an active family, and ever since our beloved Doberman died a year and a half ago, we’ve missed having a dog in our home. We decided to sign up with Rover.com.

Here’s our experience dog sitting over the last two months.

Dog Sitting as Semi-Passive Income

My personal goal with any side gig is to make them as passive as possible. I want low start-up costs, I want the “job” to be enjoyable and to integrate smoothly into our regular daily life, and I want balance with the time to income ratio. Which is why I decided to sign up with Rover.com rather than to start a business from the ground up.

If you’re unfamiliar with Rover.com, it’s similar to Airbnb.com for dogs and pets — we take care of dogs in our home for the day or overnight. Rover provides the software interface and marketing to easily connect with families, manage our availability calendar and easily book and get paid for services. They also provide some protections to sitters and owners.

On May 20th I set up our online dog sitter account, which took about 20 minutes. After I submitted my account, it took a couple days for them to review it and complete the background check. Reviews on Rover are important, so after my account was approved I asked a few friends (whose dogs we had taken care of before) to write reviews. In a couple days I was an approved Rover dog sitter.

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You can sign up with Rover to offer a variety of services, but I decided to keep our services simple — we offer dog boarding services (overnight stays) and doggy day care.

As mentioned previously, my goal with Rover has always been efficiency – highest returns for lowest time/effort. It also needs to fit in with our daily schedule. As such, I decided not to offer dog walking or house visits (both where you need to drive to another person’s house at a specific time). I also decided to only take dogs from one family at a time, to keep the coordination straight forward and to not have to worry about two dogs not getting along. We do enough refereeing with two boys as it is.

Let’s Talk Money

In just over two months, we’ve earned $686 (net after Rover fees) and expenses have been $15 (I bought doggy treats and a bag of tennis balls). At the time of writing, we have $1,500+ confirmed future bookings through October.

I spend an average of 15 minutes a day updating my availability calendar, messaging with new clients, and having new dogs and families over for introductions. The rest of the time we get to sit back and enjoy our dog guests.

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Like this guy.

From a per hour perspective, if I’ve spent 15 minutes a day for 80 days, I’ve spent 20 hours (1,200 minutes) on the business. My net earnings are $671, so $671/20 hours = $33.55 per hour. Not bad for starting a business in 20 minutes! I don’t count the time the dogs are just hanging out in our home. That’s not work, that’s just fun.

As a bonus, the time needed to run the business will decrease over time. As repeat clients book, the time needed to coordinate bookings decreases significantly. We have also raised our rates since starting (we control and set our rates, and I started them just a bit lower than average to gain clients quickly and have increased them to market rate now that we have several reviews). Each month our calendar is more and more full. In August we’ll have a dog guest in our home just about every day we’re home (i.e. not traveling). I anticipate September and October net income will be around $1,000/month based on current bookings.

That being said, we’ve had some “lessons learned” and tips for anyone thinking about dog sitting as a side hustle.

Here they are.

1. Must Love Dogs

This has been such a fun way to make money for our active family because we sincerely love having dogs around. We get to meet new four-legged friends and teach our kids about the responsibility of having a pet. We’re already going on walks or hikes daily, so it’s easy to bring the dogs along.

It’s not all ball tossing and dog snuggles, though. We are also picking up poop, sweeping/vacuuming dog hair, and cleaning off window slobber. Some dogs who are “housebroken” turn out not to be, and some may bark at every little sound. Some dogs are “easier” than others, and we’re learning how to screen dogs better with each new client meet and greet. All of this, however, feels like a small part of the job (and we’re already cleaning up after two messy boys), but it is a worthy consideration if you’re used to an immaculately clean or quiet household. And, if you like dogs but don’t love them, it might feel more like work than fun.

2. Must Love Humans, Too

We’ve had success filling up our booking calendar because of the relationships we’ve built with the owners. Over the past couple months, we’ve enjoyed getting to know the families of our dog guests and already have repeat clients.

In other words, it’s not just about the dogs – it’s also about the human relationships. Be friendly, be honest, be upfront, be quick to reply, and be professional (and also be prepared to spend a good amount of time talking to other humans).

3. Your House Stays Cleaner!?

Yup. Even though our dog friends make a few more messes and shed a little (or a lot), our house is staying cleaner. Why? With regular visits from dogs and their families, we have frequent visitors to the house. I’m not a natural uber-clean-freak, so I enjoy the motivation of having the house guest ready.

Tip: Have a quality vacuum and pet clean up spray on hand. You’ll need it.

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4. Find Your Time/Effort Balance

It’s tempting to sign up for all the services and maximize your earnings by taking four dogs at a time. But before you do, consider your time (and dog handling experience).

Would we make more money if we did this? Yes. However, right now it feels like (almost) passive income right now, so I feel like I’ve found a sweet spot of my time and returns.

With minimal effort, my sweet spot goal is $1,000/month. We may increase the number of dogs we take now that we’re comfortable with the services and this would increase our earning potential.

5. Get the Kids Involved

One reason I love this side hustle is it’s an easy way to teach our kids about money. I show them our Rover account and explain how we’re making money. We also talk about our responsibilities with the pets: feeding, walking, letting them outside, and being safe around them.

We’ve considered giving our eight year old specific jobs with the dogs (feeding, poop pick up, vacuuming, etc.) and paying him for these jobs if he does a good job. We’ll keep you posted on how this goes!

6. Understand the Terms & Fees

If you dog sit through a platform like Rover.com, take the time to read the terms and fees.

Rover has a wealth of information on their website for sitters (and pet owners). The fees Rover takes (20%) sting a little each time, however to me they are worth. I don’t need to invest any time or money into marketing, business infrastructure, networking, insurance, licensing, or technology.

7. Unintended Savings

Lastly, one unintended surprise was by being home to dog sit, we have stayed home more this summer to hang out with the dogs. We only make money as a dog sitter by being home and having dogs stays booked, so that has become a priority. We’ve passed on a couple weekend trips or longer day trips because we had dog bookings. This means our net savings/earnings are even more. For example, if we made $100 for a weekend dog visit but would have spent $300 if we left town, we really made $400!

Interested in signing up for Rover? Use these affiliate links for perks:

Do you pet sit as a side gig or side hustle? What are your tips or questions? Comment below!

Dog Sitting as a Side Hustle - Tips and Lessons Learned

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and do not reflect opinions of Rover.com. This post was not sponsored by Rover.com, however if you sign up as a pet sitter or as a pet owner through the links in the articles you may get some sweet perks!

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